Welcome to Part Two of The Year In Film Promotion, a bloggy retrospective of 2010â€˜s movie trailers, ads, and posters. Itâ€™s being hosted by Nathaniel at Film Experience and myself. (Hereâ€™s Part One, which recently appeared on Film Experience.)
I had a great time doing this, as Nathaniel is fun, funny, and smart, and Film Experience is a must-read film site. Do you like actresses? Film awards? Remembrances of films past? Quizzes and games? Thoughtful commentary? Then you will love Film Experience.
To refresh your memory about Part I of The Year in Film Promotion, Nathaniel and I were riffing on Harry Potter, Somewhere, and that freaky beast called Black Swan.
And now, the thrilling conclusion…
NATHANIEL (pictured left): Black Swan has stayed on message even in the awards campaign. I just got a music box. I open it up, but thereâ€™s no dancer spinning inside, just a mirror and the twinkly music. Did Nina Sayers (our swan queen) destroy the tiny dancer in a fit of rage? Before that, Nina mailed awards voters envelopes filled only with telltale black and white feathers. I love being threatened by imaginary movie characters in my very own home!
MARK: Any chance I can borrow your feathers? I’ve got a brashly confident rival I need to terrorize.
NATHANIEL: I tossed the feathers down the garbage chute and then barricaded my door. (â€œShe’s trying to get me!” he said with histrionic paranoia.) So, sorry. No feathers for you.
But yeah, Black Swan. Staying on message has got to be mark of total confidence, right? So many movies try the bait and switch… worried you won’t buy a ticket if you know what you’re getting yourself into (*cough* Tangled.)
MARK: Oh, Tangled! Was there ever a movie promoted with more shame? Both in the sense that Disney was obviously trying to “trick” boys into seeing a movie about a girl—because, dammit, boys shouldn’t like that sissy business!—and in the sense that Disney was apparently trying to ape the obnoxious “hipness” of the Shrek movies, as though Disney has to be Dreamworks now. If I want that much sass-mouth in a family flick, then I will go rent Home Alone, thank you very much.
But I do agree with you about Black Swan. I haven’t been that seduced by a promo campaign since I saw the extended trailer for Milk.
NATHANIEL: From pride to shame. “Most Shame in a Commercial Campaign” (catchy title)—I think itâ€™s worth noting that Tangled is a musical and musicals, traditionally (at least in the modern sense), have a lot of shame about being themselves. See also the early ads for Moulin Rouge, Chicago, et cetera. Musicals need their own pride parade.
I just hope Disney gets the right message that people like Tangled because it’s good and not because they marketed it so deceitfully.
Speaking of marketing. I know we should wrap up soon so we can start wrapping (happy holidays!) but let’s talk for a minute about POSTERS. All movies have them. Any favorites this year?
MARK: Ooh, posters! Just thinking about them takes me back to the early nineties, when my bedroom boasted such unforgettable images as Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Madonna voguing, and a laminated newspaper ad for 1492: Conquest of Paradise that I thought was visually appealing. (I never did see the movie, though. Screw you, Columbus!)
NATHANIEL: I love your fairweather Columbus story. You were totally ahead of your time, Mark! That’s what everyone does now, obsessing over marketing items and then forgetting all about the movie the second it’s available for viewing. Even when they see it!
I’m always so weirded out by how fast conversation dies on movies. I bet aliens from outer space would totally be confused studying the internet. I bet there were 321,700,550,021 words typed on like, Iron Man 2, before it opened and then 750,000 afterwards, you know? And 250,000 were about the “easter eggs” for Thor & Captain America: The First Avenger that were hidden inside IM:2. Another example of how franchise movies are just commercials for the next one. ‘I’ll hit ya next time, baby.’
My point is this: Movie culture is all foreplay and no screwing.
Put that on a poster!
MARK: Now see, if I saw that catchphrase on a movieâ€™s poster, Iâ€™d buy a ticket right away. Unless the movie was a musical about a girl.
Another interesting thing about movie conversations, along with how quickly they die, is how repetitive they can be. I mean, itâ€™s not possible that every year delivers a sci-fi masterpiece or a landmark new drama, but it seems like we annually anoint films with those titles. For instance, I accept that both District 9 and Inception are good films, but donâ€™t we cheapen both of them a little when we slobber all over them? (Iâ€™m using the â€œroyal weâ€ here. I’ve never seen us slobber unless it was totally called for.)
Anyway, that brings me back to posters, because I’ve got to give Inceptionâ€™s one-sheet a gold star. The Escher-style design, with the street behind the characters suddenly shooting up at a 90-degree angle, forced me to stop and puzzle over what I was seeing. It also suggested that the movie itself was going to be fascinating, smart, and unusual. Which, happily, was true.
I also like the poster for The Kids Are All Right. The blue and yellow color scheme is gently appealing, suggesting that the family at the bottom of the image is having a lovely picnic. Then you see the tagline—”Nic and Jules had the perfect family, until they met the man who made it possible”—and you see things differently. Those people are right in front of a cliff, after all, and is Annette Bening smiling or grimacing? That’s a solid representation of the emotional ambiguity in the actual movie.
Which posters are framed on the wall of your heart this year?
NATHANIEL: You know what? I thought that ‘cherry bomber’ poster for The Runaways was awesome. Filthy/Gorgeous it was. But I guess it required too much pre-existing interest/knowledge of the band to enjoy it and The Runaways aren’t exactly Harry Potter you know?
Speaking of: I wish the big franchises would get artsier with their poster design because everyone is going to see them no matter what the poster looks like. They should totally go crazy like the Black Swan posters.
Another poster I loved this year was I Am Love. I thought that one did a good job of portraying the stately beauty of the movie with the popping color force of Tilda Swinton at its center; the movie loves her so much the L in Love has to totally envelop her.
That poster promised and the movie delivered: foreplay and screwing.
MARK: Foreplay and screwing and promotional campaigns… is this a blog post or the season finale ofÂ Mad Men? Hey-ohhh!
Well, Iâ€™m sure I speak on both our behalves when I say this has been great fun and that I hope our readers will ask questions, leave comments, and make furious defenses of their besmirched favorites. If only our readers could somehow get inside this conversation and hear us asking for their feedback! It would be like they were spinning little tops inside our dreams!
(Don’t forget to read Part I.)